I’ve decided to write this post because a year ago today, the show that changed my life forever closed on Broadway: If/Then. This emotional, powerhouse of a show lead by the incomparable Idina Menzel opened my eyes to a life of living in New York City that hadn’t even crossed my mind and, once I saw this life, I couldn’t look away.
My first time in New York City, I was 17 years old on my school’s senior trip. We did the natural tourist-y things everyone should do while visiting the city. I saw my first Broadway show that weekend, The Lion King; which, by the way, had me absolutely sobbing halfway through the “Circle of Life” (cue dramatic tear drop right at the final beat of the drum. Not kidding, that actually happened). Walking out of that theater, I could feel the hooks of NYC settling in me. But I wouldn’t feel them grab me until my next trip back.
To tour colleges I applied to, my family and I took a trip to the city again in April of 2014. My sister and I knew going into this trip that seeing If/Then was essentially more important to us than looking at schools, and we had our little Broadway date in the Richard Rodgers theater with arguably the most talented group of actors ever assembled (all of whom I’m still absolutely obsessed with). Idina Menzel, James Snyder, Jenn Colella, Anthony Rapp, LaChanze, Jason Tam and the entire ensemble put on a performance that night (and every single night the show ran) that literally changed audience’s lives. Never did I expect a Broadway musical to alter my life the way it did, but that just goes to show the power live performance has.
The songs from the musical are what stuck with me still to this day, and I like to think they define parts of my life over the last three years. The opening song “What If?” has lyrics that sent shivers down my spine when first hearing it that night, and a year later made me cry alone in my dorm room my first night of college:
*“I can do this I know I just need to take care. Be smart, self sufficient, and hyper-aware”
*“What if I choose will I change things forever? If I leap will I fall off the cliff? You choose and there’s no turning back (…) and you wonder what if?”
If could type out the entire song I would, but you should really just listen to it and hear for yourself. Those lyrics put into words my excitement moving onto the next chapter of my life, along with the complete fear and longing for things to stay the same. Today, they still hold true, but I at least don’t cry along with it anymore.
“Map of New York” is a song in the musical I didn’t completely relate to until this year, when I slowly began loving this city. When first hearing this song two years ago, I longed to be a proper “New Yorker” that could relate to the words they were singing. And today, I can walk down the road and point out places in this city that I’ve had life changing realizations, places I’ve met people I’ve always wanted to meet, places I’ve made promises to myself and maybe even places those promises have come true (not all, but some). How cool is that?? My eighteen year old self in those seats at the Richard Rodgers theater that couldn’t figure out how to get back to her hotel now has memories and pieces of herself scattered all over Manhattan.
*“You can trace a line to me, on a map of NYC. Right where I should be.”
*“We never walk a straight line. We never check the street signs. But it’s in the detour that we truly find our way. We always know the way home. As long as we can stay here we’re home.”
So, on the crazy chance someone involved in the production of this incredible musical sees this post, I sincerely thank you all for sharing this creation with the world. If/Then planted New York City’s roots inside of me and I don’t know where I would be in the world and what kind of person I would be if I hadn’t seen this musical. The talent of the show sucked me in, the story touched me more deeply than I ever imagined it would and the words will stick with me for the rest of my life.
“What if I always belonged in the city that moves me with people who thrill me?”
The title of the blogpost is inspired by yet another incredible song from the musical that you can beam into your eardrums right here.